BY REBECCA PALMER
SALT LAKE CITY — Last week in a hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, a Forbes magazine managing editor held a smartphone before a crowd of tech experts in business suits and asked them what it was.
The crowd’s only answer was uncomfortable silence, but the man, Tom Post, continued.
“It’s a grenade with the pin pulled out,” he said, “and it explodes multiple times.”
Post, who edits the Entrepreneurs channel on Forbes.com, was speaking before the annual conference of the Utah Technology Council. The smartphone is a threatening disrupter throughout the tech industry, but particularly to newspapers and magazines, he said.
“This is the way people are consuming everything now, entertainment, business, and news,” he said. “It’s happening ever more one weekends now.”
It has proved very difficult for anyone to monetize smartphone traffic, however, he said. Advertising rates for phones are a fraction of those for desktop Internet ads, and those are a fraction of print ad rates.
At Forbes, the only solution to the disruption of caused by the Internet has been that everybody now does some of everything, so the web and print parts of the business are fully integrated, Post said. Forbes is also exploring sponsored content in addition to using content from armies of contributors, who help post up to 500 articles daily.
He encouraged the business leaders to be vigilant to save themselves.
“The whole nature of disruption is you get ambushed by what you don’t pay attention to,” he said.
Leaders at the tech council remained optimistic, but hope to focus on training a new tech-savvy workforce to keep the business environment strong in Utah.
“We have a responsibility to be globally competitive,” said Chet Linton, Chairman of the Board. “We’re going to be more focused on filling the talent shortage within our state.”
The council has already made some progress, and had a loud voice on Utah’s Capitol Hill this January. Two bills they opposed were defeated, one that would have established primary elections for school board candidates (HB59) and another that would have established Internet sales taxes (SB226). Three bills passed that they supported, one that created a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Action Center to help schoolteachers (HB139), one that creates an Education Task Force (SB169) and one that establishes a letter grading system for schools (HB271). They were not successful in passing a resolution that would have amended the constitution to give the Utah governor more control over the state school board (SJR5).
The Council has 451 members, but there are 55,000 computer and information technology companies in Utah, Linton said.